Flavours. Ivo Linnenberg's class A/B Allegro monos amplify their input signal at 1MHz bandwidth whilst the i/o are deliberately limited to 350kHz for universal interface stability. A single pair of push/pull lateral Exicon Mosfets drives the outputs. These are very fast amplifiers which pursue high slew rates and absentee phase shift for an optimized time domain, then add very low self noise for expanded dynamic range. The effect is ultra lucid, maximally extended, fantastically informative and SET-like pure. But it's not harmonically padded, midrange centric, dark, warm, dense or romantic. Helmut Becker's class A Audio Valve Assistent 50 integrated packs four Siemens QQE 03/12Y twin tetrodes per channel. Those are driven by a 12AU7 with a 12AX7 input. The transistor Germans dispatch 55 watts into 8Ω. The tubular Teutons do 50 watts. Even on their ~€5K sticker these players are nearly perfectly matched. Of course the sand amps need a preamp whereas the valver packs its own motorized remote-controlled Alps Blue potentiometer. It should go without saying that the warmer denser richer softer tube amp plus Aptica minimized the speaker differences when Amira saw the solid-state monos fronted by Wyred4Sound's flagship Stage 2 preamp.

Unlike Aptica's, Amira's trim rings are engraved DSD for the tweeter, Handmade in Italy and Helmholine System for the mid/woofer, seeming just a mite 'branded' or 'noisy'.

Without arriving at full flavour overlap—the amp signatures were more dominant than the speaker offsets—these strategic pairings played it convergent. The opposite combos of Allegro plus Aptica and Assistent plus Amira upped divergence. Like+like=wider differences. From this we extrapolate that the soft tweeter and Curv® mid/woofer mirrored certain tube qualities, the hard ceramics very fast transistors. One gestalt played it a bit more plump, ripe, rich and relaxed. The other did it more energetic, separated, enunciated and lean. The first was less critical of software sins. It represented an easier hence more universal approach. The second was fussier. It exposed the sad status quo of brighter harder Pop/electronica albums to act more selective and exclusionary. With it one gets ahead particularly on resolution when the going is very good. When the going turns tough on a Top 50 diet, one rather falls behind by being more conscious of recorded shortcomings. That undermines the listening fun. Here Amira inched a bit closer to an 'everyman' speaker not just on price. Being kinder and more comforting to non-audiophile productions, she doled out virtual tube vitamins in a small but meaningful dose. And that, in a nutshell, was the better hinted at earlier.

Where Amira inherited the uncut Aptica dose was on soundstage scale and specificity. Only coaxial drivers exceed the point-sourciness of this tightly clustered driver duo. And they likely won't duplicate these 1st-order filters. Making full hay then from time-optimized amps like our Allegro minis, Amira cast a gigantic acoustic field with very articulated albeit not 'etched' localization and pronounced layering. Relative to my model year 1962 ears, tweeter extension was near equivalent to the inverted Accuton but without the latter's sheen or tizz (two sides of the same coin, the first very attractive on top-rate productions, the second slightly harsh or grainy on mediocre files). Splashy cymbals rose somewhat slower and less high, producing less splash. Scratchy violin flageolet as coaxed from strings in Middle-Eastern styles had less dirty scratch. This affected perception not just of sounds which are poster boys for this range. It affected transient heat in general. Amira's temperament was calmer, her attack blade not as sharp. Ergo, the earlier connection to transformer-coupled valve amps of limited HF bandwidth.

On the many steps down the bassment, 50Hz reached full power, 40Hz was slightly reduced. 35Hz was down by about half, 30Hz still clearly audible but much reduced. 25Hz registered only as the 2nd harmonic. That fundamental was out of range entirely. Considering cabinet size and mid/woofer diameter, that once again was spectacular performance from Massimo's proprietary but clearly effective transmission line concept. Because this is no ported system—especially not a rear port which would ricochet off the front wall—it avoids most of their room interaction issues. Being light enough to walk about easily, Amira can park smack against a wall, pull out during listening and move back again during off-hours; should that be best to maintain domestic peace. Of course free-space placement for some breathing room liberates the inner staging fiend. Why acquire a true expert on that count, then not cater to its generic requirements?

Whilst 84dB sensitivity was low, our 50-watters were perfectly sufficient to play our 5.5x15m space to our normal requirements. In hard numbers, that's no louder than 90dB peaks, with most sessions hovering in the mid 70s. Headbangers far north of that would never have read this far in the first place. Given the voicing described, I'd call Amira perfectly positioned to tango with wide-bandwidth fast electronics à la Crayon, Goldmund, Linnenberg, Naiu Labs, Soulution & Co. With the physically time-aligned minimum-phase filter concept, it makes sense to maximize its capabilities with electronics that don't introduce phase shift or exhibit a slightly sluggish temperament. None of it is a requirement. Those who've heard such combos will simply recognize that to go the full distance relies on obeying hifi basics. And best staging always pays attention to minimized boundary effects.

Calculator time. A cloth-wrapped GoldenEar Technologies model at Amira pricing would call itself a flagship and bristle with drivers, some of them powered. It'd play much louder and go even lower. With the music we play, Amira simply reveled in the fact that we neither require nor desire louder or lower. No TV in the living room! But our creatively fixed household does appreciate style and artisanal finishing. Our type gladly pays extra for cosmetics; and extra again for issuing from a very small Italian specialty firm, not a big volume outfit with Far-Eastern cabinet suppliers and full-page ads in the glossies. It's the difference between paying a scrappance for dishwasher-safe Ikea ceramics near Dublin airport; or a higher price at a County Mayo gallery for hand-turned wares with Japanese-style raku crackle glazing from local potters. Of course the act of drinking from cups is the same no matter their origin. But with speakers, there's the extra flavour they impart to the act of usage.

Amira's take was spatially enormous. Images were finely focused but not laser-edge locked. Tone was full not fulsome. Textures were slightly matte, not shiny. Bass was agile, articulate and surprisingly low but not massive, pounding or crushing. Treble was extended but temperamentally gentle. Dynamic shifts were solid but not a highlight. The midband was nicely chunky but not meaty like a Zu Druid. Separation was high but not extreme. Low-volume listening was fine but not close to high-efficiency designs. Amira came on song at normal SPL, then scaled up from there to beyond where we take things. A definite core decider in her favour were the fine warmth, tonal weight and moistness she culled from electronics that lean the other way. Far from a Harbeth heavy, this was more of a homeopathic dose than golden fix; just perfect to prevent very fast electronics from turning too frosty. In closing, I thought that Albedo Audio's princess Amira made for a very elegant small tower which 90% of users would call full range and ideally weighted between resolution and comfort to play to 'normal' not audiophile-approved music. Once more Massimo Costa has proven how his particular design credo delivers astonishingly big sound from something physically small. Let's thank his Chinese clients for giving him enough of a scheduling break to address the entry point of his range before the next über tower commissions push him in the opposite direction again...

Albedo Audio website